Baz Luhrmann’s big money biopic Elvis may have left the Oscars empty-handed last weekend (it did pick up a couple of Razzies, but the director would probably prefer not to shout about that), but Netflix’s new animated series about the singer, Agent Elvis, is determinedly less highbrow.
The show is an irreverent spy romp that finds the titular King of Rock’n’Roll locking horns with a selection of criminals, political revolutionaries and counter-culture ne'er-do-wells in 1960s America — perhaps in part a tribute to Elvis Presley’s own admission of his boyhood dreams of being the hero of one of his favourite comic books.
The show is co-created by the singer's wife Priscilla Presley, who also voices herself. Although it would be no insult to describe Agent Elvis as being at the low-brow end of the TV spectrum, that doesn’t mean it’s held back on the star power, with Priscilla only one of a number of big names on the voiceover list.
Matthew McConaughey voices Elvis, in what must surely be a dream role for any actor of southern American extraction, such as Texas native actor.
Kaitlin Olson, the Emmy-nominated star of Hacks, is CeCe Ryder, the musician's handler from intelligence agency The Central Bureau. Ryder is a black leather catsuit-wearing femme fatale reminiscent of Avenger Black Widow.
MCU links don't end there, with Don Cheadle, aka War Machine, voicing TCB chief The Commander. Tom Kenny, who voices Spongebob Squarepants, plays Elvis's psychotic, womanising pet monkey Scatter (yes, Scatter was a real thing), Jackass's Johnny Knoxville is redneck mechanic Bobby Ray, while Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks and Star Trek’s Simon Pegg are among the cameos. This may be a goofball cartoon, but no expense has been spared on casting.
The episodes follow a fairly set formula, with each one finding Agent Elvis taking on a variety of villains against a backdrop of historical events from the 1960s, or significant moments in the singer’s life, with a smattering of well-known Elvis songs on the soundtrack for good measure.
This is perhaps one area where the show suffers from Netflix’s binge-watching model. Taken individually, the episodes are great fun, but the formulaic nature can become a little repetitive when watching several episodes at once. Of course, this is easily solved by simply spacing out your viewing, but when the sofa’s comfy and you’ve nowhere to go, it can be a challenge, and could lead viewers to switch off a few episodes in and forget to come back.
Aesthetically, the show takes on a distinctly retro approach — the visual elements wouldn’t look out of place in 1960s and 1970s classic cartoons of Hannah-Barbera such as Scooby Doo and Hong Kong Phooey — though the adult themes and decidedly 21st century language ensure it's not wholesome family viewing.
Hardcore devotees of Elvis could also be shocked by the depiction of their idol as a foul-mouthed, violent vigilante killer, but Priscilla’s close involvement may quell worries.
All in all, Agent Elvis is an entertaining and unexpected, reimagining of a 20th century star. We’d definitely reiterate the recommendation to spread viewing over a few sessions for best results, but taken in the appropriate doses, you may well find you Can’t Help Falling in Love with Agent Elvis.